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Man's sinfulness is the heart of the Gospel
A parade of letters in the Herald-Times has referred to "hate letters" published by the newspaper. They claim that the "hate" is "un-Christian". Of particular interest to me is the letter last Sunday by Steve McGaffney, who writes: "(Christians) would be well-advised to emphasize the positive parts of the New Testament and to de-emphasize the negative parts of the Old Testament."
McGaffney then quotes Matthew 7:1, which is arguably the most misunderstood verse in the Bible.
Some say that we should not focus on sin, but on the love of Christ, who gave His own life so that we may live. I submit, though, that the love of Christ is not the heart of the Gospel message. The heart of the Gospel is that man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man cannot save himself, and is destined for an eternity in Hell without outside help.
Yes, Christ died for us, but why did He have to die? Because that was the only way for God's wrath against our sin to be quenched. If it were possible for us to work our way into heaven by being a "good person", there would have been no reason for Christ to die.
Of course, it's not suprising that people would advocate focusing on the "positive" aspects of the Bible, because no one wants to be reminded of his or her sin. John 3:20 says that "every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved".
Christ's love for us and His death on the Cross were the solution to a problem: man's inescapable sin. Yes, we can tell someone they should accept Christ to go to Heaven. But why? Because we have sinned and need forgiveness for that sin. Men must be convicted of sin in order to recognize the need for Christ's shed blood. Convicting men of sin is not hate, it is love, the very heart of the Gospel.